By Walt Hickey
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All This? For The Suns?
The city of Phoenix has agreed to pay $150 million for renovations to the Suns Arena in a deal that would keep them in town through 2037. Phoenix is a town still paying off the debt for the initial building costs of the arena in 1992, and the Suns aren’t even that good. That Phoenix is putting up 65 percent of the renovation costs — which is quite high, in fact the second-highest municipal share of costs among the most recent 14 arena deals in the past five years — is somehow the second-most ridiculous thing about the process. At one point, former Councilwoman Mary Rose Wilcox spoke up in favor of the arena. In 1997, Wilcox was shot over her support for a tax hike to fund the Arizona Diamondbacks’ baseball stadium. Later in that meeting, Larry Naman — who shot Wilcox in 1997, served 12 years for attempted murder and was released in 2010 — spoke out against the new arena deal.
Yeah, Well You Wait Til Bandersnatch Numbers Drop
Video game sales revenue hit $43.4 billion last year, an 18 percent increase from 2017. Several mega-hits fueled the boom year with Red Dead Redemption 2 posting the best numbers, but with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also helping 2018 outperform. The Nintendo Switch outperformed the PlayStation 4 to be the best selling console of the year in units and revenue, with 8.7 million sold in the U.S. alone. For comparison, the U.S. domestic box office was a comparatively puny $11.9 billion and the music business in the first half of 2018 posted only $4.6 billion.
Because Medicine Costs Too Little
A 2016 survey found that 68 hospitals out of the 108 surveyed had ominously named “grateful patient programs,” where the medical institutions shake down patients for donations after they do their job and make sure they don’t die. Hospitals — which are places you go when you like to not die — have increasingly devoted resources to screening the wealth of patients hundreds at a time to figure out who to add to a database of potential donors. It then enlists doctors in pitching them for money. Donations to hospitals rose to $10.4 billion in 2017 up from $6 billion in 2006.
The Top 1 Percent
A new study published in Science found that only a small portion of the populations consumes bullshit and only a smaller fraction even produces it. Looking at shares of news identified as deliberately misleading or obviously false — the ugly viral stuff that makes the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News Bat Boy coverage look like Woodward and Bernstein — a full 79.8 percent of shares emanated from a mere 0.1 percent of the studied panel, and a small 1 percent of members consumed 80% of the volume. So, you know, crackpots. The median supersharer tweeted 71 times a day, compared to 0.1 time a day for the median member overall. Anyway if you read this newsletter I urge you to tweet more, your country needs you.
Over 100 million women around the world use an app to track menstruation. Some use it to get pregnant, some use it to avoid pregnancy, some just want to stay in the loop on this kind of thing. But regardless, the often free apps are totally trying to make a bunch of money using that data to field advertisements. The app store isn’t a doctor and doesn’t have half the ethical obligations, or even the necessity to be right. Flo, the U.S. leader, has 6 million of its 28 million users in the U.S., and says it’s collected 13 billion data points and has a team of more than a dozen data scientists sifting around for patterns. Its largest Western rival, Clue, doesn’t run ads off their data, though the terms of service allows academic research and runs on subscription. We’re in a weird part of the capitalist experiment where “probably won’t sell data about your menstruation to the highest bidder” makes someone a paragon of technological ethics.
Oscar campaigns are running more expensive than normal this year given the absence of a front-runner and a seemingly wide-open race. Campaign budgets for studio films running in multiple categories — A Star is Born, Roma and First Man — can run $20 million to $30 million. Reports show that the nomination campaign for A Star is Born came in a bit lower than $20 million. The most interesting case is low-budget Roma, which was made for $15 million and distributed by Oscar-hungry Netflix. Current estimates put their current spending on the Oscar pursuit at upwards of $25 million.
A disease is considered rare if it affects fewer than 200,000 people per year. But just because a disease may be rare does not mean that rare diseases are rare. There are about 7,000 such diseases as presently categorized, and up to 1 in 10 people in the U.S. has a rare disease or disorder according to the rare-disease advocacy organization Global Genes. And indeed, even the most-common rare diseases affect large numbers of people: an estimated 80 percent of the rare disease community has one of the top 350 rare diseases.
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